Madagascar mutineers in talks with regime

Some Madagascar troops claim to have seized power on the island.

Antananarivo: Madagascar troops who staged a mutiny and claimed to have seized power on the island were on Thursday holed up in their barracks negotiating with the regime, a military source said.

"If the negotiations fail the regime is going to take a much tougher stance. There won`t be any en masse pardon. Orders have been given," the source said, asking not to be identified.

Negotiations were taking place a day after General Noel Rakotonandrasana, a former armed forces minister who played a key role in the March 2009 Army-backed coup that brought Andry Rajoelina to power, declared that government institutions had been suspended and a military council was in charge.

There were no signs of a military presence or unusual activity in the capital on Thursday with traffic on the streets and shops open for business as normal.

The mutineers do not number more than 20, Prime Minister Camille Vital said.

Rajoelina, speaking on Wednesday evening insisted that "the government will assume its responsibilities and consequently take action."

The mutiny took place on a public holiday as residents voted in a referendum on a new Constitution organised by Rajoelina.

In the capital Antananarivo, those who took part in the referendum voted overwhelmingly in favour of the new law, according to provisional results announced on Thursday by the electoral agency, but turnout was only 40 percent.

The yes vote is likely to dominate everywhere as the opposition parties, led by the island`s three former presidents Marc Ravalomanana, Didier Ratsiraka et Albert Zafy have called for a boycott rather than a no vote.

Despite the call by the mutineers "overall everything went off normally" during polling, Gisele Dama Ranampy, a member of the electoral agency, said.

"There were a few small problems on the voter lists ... and the authorities, when they saw all the people who wanted to vote, decided to extend the opening hours of the polling stations to 6:00 pm," she said.

Polling stations had been supposed to close at 4:00 pm local time (1300 GMT).

The referendum is the first poll since the March 2009 coup that ousted elected president Marc Ravalomanana and brought Rajoelina to power.

It marks the first phase of a process agreed to by Rajoelina and around 100 small political movements to lift the island out of political limbo. The process has however been rejected by the opposition and criticised by the international community.

Bureau Report

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